Defending their turf

Bison football fights adversity, gets redemption against Saskatchewan

Photo credit to Beibei Liu

Losers of two straight games,  the University of Manitoba Bisons football team entered Friday’s action in desperate need of a win. To get it, they would have to knock off the eighth-ranked Saskatchewan Huskies, a team that defeated them in week one. Not only did Manitoba accomplish that feat, they did so in impressive fashion, winning 41-8 at Investors Group Field.

The Bisons were able to make things look easy all game long on both sides of the ball, despite losing star quarterback Jordan Yantz in the second quarter. The defence stood tall, and Kienan LaFrance and Nic Demski stepped up big on offence.

Manitoba set the tempo early on, as Tyler Fong recovered a Huskies fumble on the second play from scrimmage, setting the Bisons up on the Saskatchewan 15-yard line. Unfortunately, the home squad couldn’t cash in, as their field goal attempt on the ensuing drive was mishandled.

Both defences held strong in the first quarter, with the only point coming on a punt single by Saskatchewan. It was their only lead of the game, as Manitoba dictated the next three quarters .

Yantz was excellent through the first 12 minutes of the second frame, engineering two consecutive scoring drives. The first was capped off with a six-yard touchdown pass to Matt Sawyer, and the second with a 10-yard QB sneak by Yantz. 

The Bisons’ jubilation was cut short with just over three minutes remaining in the half, as Yantz was forced out of the game after a late hit to the head. The injury appeared to be a concussion. His second quarter completion percentage before the injury was nothing less than impressive, going 12-for-12.  He left the game with 189 passing yards, and a touchdown.

Ryan Jones added a late field goal for Manitoba, as they went to the half up 17-1. Despite the injury to Yantz, head coach Brian Dobie noted the positive manner in the locker room from his troops. He compared the mood of the players to that of the 2007 Vanier Cup, after star running back Matt Henry went down with a broken femur.

“Instead of the team going, ‘Oh my God,’ it was the opposite [ . . . ] Halftime was very interesting in the Bison locker room,” said Dobie. “It was a very, very, very motivating [a] and good place to be.”

BisonsFootball3_RGBresized_Photo by Beibei Lu

The second half was more of the same from Manitoba. LaFrance churned out over 100 yards on the ground, and 21 yards receiving, along with a major. Demski scored an electrifying 76-yard punt return touchdown, to go with 57 yards receiving, and backup QB Theo Deezar—a standout at St. Paul’s High School and the Okanagan Sun— recorded his first career touchdown pass, 14 yards to Sawyer. 

The defence held their ground as well, registering four sacks overall, and an interception from Jayden McKoy – his team-leading third of the season. The secondary had arguably their best game of the year, holding Saskatchewan pivot Drew Burko to 164 yards and no touchdowns, and the front seven allowed just 50 yards rushing. 

Manitoba now heads on the road, taking on the Regina Rams for the second time this season. The Bisons may have to look at life without Yantz for that game, however when asked how the loss of the QB may affect the team going forward, McKoy was very optimistic.

“We have to play well to be able to win,” McKoy said postgame. “With Yantz going down, and Theo [Deezar] stepping up, now we have to continue to play, and play as a team.”


Game time next weekend against Regina will be Saturday, Oct. 25, at 2 p.m. MT (3 p.m. CST).